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Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Mendica’

Readers’ Choice Favorite New Restaurant: Olive & Oak

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

oliveandoak

{ clockwise from top, mixed green salad, Cuban sweet potatoes, O&O Burger, The Dip, blue crab gratin at Olive & Oak }

 

If you could actually snag a standing reservation at the wildly popular Olive & Oak in Webster Groves, you’d find a different menu each time. Executive chef Jesse Mendica tweaks vegetable preparations or swaps a protein in her playful twists on classics nearly every day.

“Just trust us,” she said. “I won’t lead you into something you don’t want.” Here, Mendica shared her go-to salad, staff obsessions and the handful of constants on the flexible menu of your Favorite New Restaurant.

Mixed Green Salad
“It’s over grilled, awesome potato bread – that’s a sleeper hit. To call it a potato bread is a shame because its half mashed potatoes-half bread, so it’s dense and thick and gooey.”

Cuban Sweet Potatoes
“When you make people happy with vegetables, that’s a real feat. Steak is easy, a fatty burger is easy – vegetables take a little more effort and risk. When people dig on the vegetables, I’m so excited.”

O & O Burger
“We have to plead with [employees] to eat something other than a burger. We’re worried about you. You’re going to become a burger.”

The Dip
“It’s roasted leg of lamb with drunken goat cheese and lamb jus. Don’t miss it. We did a veggie dip and a ham dip and a pork dip, but nothing compares to this. I’m head over heels for it.”

Blue Crab Gratin
“It’s total comfort food. It’s just a cheesy crab dip – spicy and warm and sharable.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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Sauce Magazine: Readers’ Choice 2017

Best New Restaurants 2016: Olive & Oak

Review: Olive & Oak

The Scoop: Olive & Oak owners to open cafe in Webster Groves

The Scoop: James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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{ from left, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan, Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann } 

 

The St. Louis restaurant scene experienced a bit of déjà vu when the finalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, March 15. Two St. Louis chefs moved on as finalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category: Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan and Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann. Both chefs were finalists in this category last year.

“I’m so grateful,” Nashan said. “You never know if you’re going to on the list again – it’s torturous! I’m just so grateful and really excited for the team. I just found out and I’m really blown away.”

Willmann found out about the news when Sauce called for comment. “Oh, no shit? Hell yeah!” he said. “I’m really proud of my team this year, we have an awesome groove going, and the sky’s the limit. “

As The Scoop reported in February, the James Beard Foundation named four St. Louis-area chefs as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Olive & Oak executive chef Jessie Mendica and Público chef-owner Mike Randolph did not make it to the final round. Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton, a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, also didn’t advance to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on May 1. Local eatery Gioia’s Deli will also be honored at the gala; the Beard Foundation honored The Hill sandwich shop with an America’s Classic award in January.

 

Related Content
• The Scoop: 5 St. Louis chefs earn James Beard Foundation semifinalist honors

The Scoop: James Beard Foundation declares Gioia’s Deli an American Classic

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Willmann and Nashan

The Scoop: 5 St. Louis chefs earn James Beard Foundation semifinalist honors

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

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{ Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton } 

 

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2017 restaurant and chef award semifinalists today, Feb. 15. St. Louis’s recent run of recognition from the foundation continues, as five St. Louis chefs earned nominations for the esteemed culinary awards.

Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton was named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year. This award recognizes “a chef age 30 or younger who displays impressive talent and is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”

“It’s pretty much every chef’s dream come true to be recognized in that way,” Shelton said.

The JBFA nod is the latest in a growing list of recognition for Shelton. She is a member of the Sauce Ones to Watch Class of 2016, and Eater named her a Young Gun of 2016. Shelton said the honors validate her leadership style in the kitchen. “For me, it keeps pushing me and telling that the path I’m on is the right path,” she said. “We’re trying to do something different in our restaurants – not screaming and yelling.”

Pastaria owner Gerard Craft, who won Best Chef: Midwest in 2015, said Shelton’s culinary future is bright, and not just because she’s a talented cook.

“Being a chef is being a chief. It’s being a leader. It’s one of the hardest parts of the job,” Craft said. “For somebody her age to lead a team the size that she leads and operation the size that she leads, I can’t imagine anybody doing it better. What she’s going to do in the future is sure to be amazing.”

 

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{ from left, Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica, Perennial Artisan Ales’ Phil Wymore and Olive & Oak owner Mark Hinkle }

 

JBF also named four area chefs as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Midwest region: Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica, Público chef-owner Mike Randolph, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan and Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann. This category acknowledges “chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions.”

This is the first Beard Foundation honor for Mendica. Neither she nor Olive & Oak owner Mark Hinkle could immediately be reached for comment.

 

021517_mike-randolph

{ Público chef-owner Mike Randolph }

 

This is the second semifinalist nod for Randolph, whose restaurant Público was named a finalist for Best New Restaurant 2016.

“Going into last year I had put so much emphasis on the restaurant getting the Best New nomination because I felt like that was kind of a loftier goal, to be honest,” Randolph said, crediting his team with the restaurant’s success. “But that being said, I look at this list – these are people that I admire and that I respect. Any time you get a chance to see your name thrown in that hat, it’s humbling. It makes me want to work harder – and go in and hug everyone at Público.”

 

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 { Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann }

Nashan and Willmann are no strangers to this prestigious honor. Willmann earned his first finalist nod last year. “It’s always an honor and always exciting, especially for the crew,” he said. “They go so hard to keep our standards up.”

 

021517_kevinnashan

 { Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan }

 

Nashan has twice made it to the finalist round of this category. “It’s awesome and amazing,” he said. “I literally just found out. It’s an honor any time you’re mentioned — it’s just great to be on the bus.”

Finalists will be announced March 15, and the winners will be named May 1 in Chicago. A full list of the winners is available online.

 

Editor’s note: This post was updated Wednesday, Feb. 15 at noon to add comments from Kevin Willmann. 

Heather Hughes, Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell contributed to this report.

Ashley Shelton and Kevin Willmann photos by Carmen Troesser; Kevin Nashan photo by Greg Rannells; Mike Randolph photo courtesy of Público by Greg Rannells; Jesse Mendica photo courtesy of Olive & Oak Facebook

 

Related Content
• The Scoop: James Beard Foundation declares Gioia’s Deli an American Classic

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Willmann and Nashan

The Scoop: Chefs Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann earn finalist nods for JBFA Best Chef: Midwest

The Scoop: 5 STL-area chefs, The Side Project Cellar, Stone Soup Cottage all earn JBFA nods

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

The Scoop: Olive & Oak owners to open cafe in Webster Groves

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

010517_olive+oak

Webster Groves is getting another restaurant from the owners of Olive & Oak, and it’s right next door. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, the restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at 100 W. Lockwood Ave., in the former Webster Groves Bookstore space.

The team chose to stay in the same neighborhood for their second concept because, “the neighborhood needed it,” said co-owner Mark Hinkle. “They were asking for something like this, and I think we can give it to them in a fun way.”

The menu will keep with Olive & Oak’s classic American cuisine in a fast casual format. Expect cafe standards like coffee and pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches, all with Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica’s special spin.

Hinkle hopes the 2,200-square-foot space will open in the early summer.

Best New Restaurants: No. 3 – Olive & Oak

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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 { flank steak }

 

Since Olive & Oak opened to great acclaim in January, eager customers have had to book reservations well in advance. Determined walk-ins order cocktails and prowl the bar, waiting to pounce on a vacant seat. Webster Groves residents who used to drive 20 minutes for a night out now have a dining destination in their own backyard.

Despite the hustle, you’ll rarely see disgruntled or discontented staff at Olive & Oak. In fact, servers look downright cheerful as they weave through standing-room only crowds carrying trays piled with food. After more than a decade in the hospitality industry, owner Mark Hinkle found that poor service was often due to an overwhelmed wait staff, not bad attitudes. “If you never staff to be busy, you’ll never be busy, ” he said.

Hinkle wants his staff to be professional, but relaxed. If they aren’t enjoying their night, neither will the guest. “I look around and they all seem to be having fun … [There’s] a good vibe and a comfortable feel,” Hinkle said.

Dining at the bar best exemplifies this superior hospitality. These multitasking masters are servers, bartenders, bar backs and your best friend. Settle in to an open seat and order a drink from the surprising, well-balanced menu that can hold its own in a city obsessed with craft cocktails. Try the No. 78, made with pear, lime, sherry, Scotch, gin and umami bitters for an unusual concoction with savory notes that you can only find at Olive & Oak. Your bartender will happily chat and simultaneously take an order from the patron standing behind you as she mixes your drink.

While you ponder the menu that entices such a crowd, another bartender sets down The Dip sandwich piled high with shaved leg of lamb, served with a cup of rich jus and fries so crisp, you may be tempted to steal them from your neighbor’s plate (Don’t – that’s rude.). If you can’t decide whether to get the starter of bubbling blue crab gratin, thick and cheesy with a kiss of Calabrian chile oil, or jump straight to the perfectly charred, medium-rare flank steak you just saw flying past on its way to another table, the solution is simple: get both.

Order another round. Take your time. You’re a guest at this classy yet laid-back dinner party.

 

More about Olive & Oak

Top Shelf: 5 bartenders you should know

New and Notable: Olive & Oak

• Sneak Peek: Olive & Oak in Webster Groves

• The Scoop: New American eatery Olive & Oak to open in Webster Groves historic building

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Sneak Peek: Olive & Oak in Webster Groves

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

OliveAndOak_07

 

Webster Groves welcomes its newest restaurant when Olive & Oak fires up the burners tonight, Jan. 26, at 102 W. Lockwood Ave. Having spent the past six months preparing, co-owners Mark Hinkle and Greg Ortyl, along with executive chef Jesse Mendica, are eager to share their food with the community at a grand opening this weekend.

As The Scoop reported in May 2015, Hinkle formerly worked in front-of-house management at Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield. Inspired by that experience, the Olive & Oak wine list boasts more than 120 bottles with 20 available by the glass, while bar manager Chelsea Little’s cocktail menu offers light and bubbly options, as well as boozy libations and eight rotating local beer taps.

Executive chef Jesse Mendica also hails from Annie Gunn’s, where she served as executive sous chef for eight years. Her menu offerings include oysters and other pre-dinner seafood options, five appetizers and half a dozen soup and salad options. The entrees are almost evenly split between surf and turf dishes, including chicken options and two sharable dishes – a salt-roasted red snapper and a rib-eye. Meat-free options appear as entrees like a potpie filled with local mushrooms and cauliflower and a grilled pear and cheese sandwiches featuring Tulip Tree Trillium.

Here’s what to expect when you step inside Webster Groves’ newest eatery:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

The Scoop: Sous chefs battle at Kitchen Conservatory on Monday

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Sous chefs (and chef de cuisines) from five of the area’s top restaurants will be battling it out for bragging rights and a cash prize this coming Monday, October 15. The Sous Chef Battle Royale contestants – Chris Bolyard (Sidney Street Cafe), Adam Gnau (Acero), Nate Hereford (Niche), Andrew Jennrich (Farmhaus) and Jesse Mendica (Annie Gunn’s) –  will be going head-to-head at Kitchen Conservatory. Each chef will have 90 minutes to prepare two dishes, both of which must include a secret ingredient. Dishes will be scored on taste, originality and presentation by a panel of celebrity judges. The winner will receive a cash prize of $5,000.

Want to get in on the action? You can purchase a $5 ticket here, which includes complimentary wine and beer. The event is limited to 65 guests.

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